7 April 2014
South Africa suffered a heart-breaking 2-3 loss to Lithuania in their Euro Africa Group 2 second round Davis Cup tie at the Irene Country club outside of Centurion on Sunday, having led 2-1 heading into the final day’s play.
The advantage was with the home team after Jean Andersen and Raven Klaasen won the doubles on Saturday to give them the lead, and an enthusiastic crowd was on hand to cheer them on, but it wasn’t enough as the Lithuanians staged a strong fightback.
Friday’s reverse singles had been shared, with Ricardas Berankis beating Jean Andersen 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 and Rik de Voest running out a 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 7-6 (7-4) winner over Laurynas Grigelis.
In Sunday’s first match, Berankis defeated De Voest 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in a three- and-a-half hour thriller. Berankis, who was ranked 67th in the world last year in May before suffering an injury, worked the South African number one hard on his way to a crucial victory.
De Voest put up a big fight, in what was his 20th and last Davis Cup rubber for his country. He will be retiring from tennis later this year.
“Berankis was the quality player out there today,” De Voest said afterwards. “Walking onto court, I really felt emotional, knowing that this was my last match for my country, but with the unbelievable support from the crowd, I was able to put my nerves behind me and focus on the task. Unfortunately the win wasn’t to be and Ricardas was just too good and solid today.”
De Voest had a big chance to get ahead in the tenth game of the fourth set when he held three break points, but he failed to capitalise on them. “Things may have been different if I had broken in that tenth game,” he admitted.
After the Berankis victory, the tie was level at 2-2. South African captain, John- Laffnie de Jager then made a tactical change and named Ruan Roelofse for the final rubber instead of the originally nominated Jean Andersen.
Although Roelofse has limited Davis Cup experience, De Jager felt his big game could upset the rhythm of the Lithuanians.
Unfortunately it did not go well for the 24-year-old South African, and although the powerfully-built Roelofse put up a gallant effort, he went down to Laurynas Grigelis 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 4-6 in just over three hours.
Roelofse certainly had his chances. He was up a break in the third set at 4-2 and had he capitalised on that advantage, it could have been a different ball game.
“Yes I had my chances and when I look back it upsets me I didn’t take them, but overall I felt I played a good game and did myself and South Africa proud,” he said afterwards.
Credit to Lithuania
A disappointed De Jager said that all credit should go to Lithuania for coming to South Africa and taming the altitude and putting up a really good performance. “The Lithuanians must be applauded for their effort. It is never easy playing away from home but they arrived early, worked hard, and adapted well by the time the tie started,” De Jager said.
He also praised for his team, saying: “My team and squad overall gave their best and put in a real good week. I am proud of them. Now we need to regroup and work hard for 2015.”
After the defeat, South Africa will remain in Euro/Africa Group 2 for 2015.